A FRAUDSTER who claimed he could barely leave the house and was unable to cut his own food was caught running a dog walking business while claiming benefits.

Colin Sage was overpaid £24,673.92 in Personal Independence Payment by the Department of Work and Pensions during his three-and-a-half-year con.

His initial claim in 2014 was entirely legitimate after he suffered two debilitating strokes which forced him to leave his lucrative job as a Royal Mail senior manager.

Despite being warned he had to declare any change in personal circumstances, two years later he said he was still suffering with the same ailments including struggling to use the right side of his body, that his wife had to help him eat and that he could walk no more than 100 metres without a stick.

But Sage’s account then began receiving money for a dog walking business.

Investigators then looked at his social media and found pictures of him walking dogs in the snow and up and down steep hills.

Surveillance on his home proved he was well enough to be out with the pooches and would go cycling.

Sage, 52, also enjoyed walking holidays in China and the Lake District.

Earlier this year, he admitted failing to notify about a change in circumstances affecting his benefits between November 2015 and May 2019 and making a false statement to obtain benefits.

Frank O’Toole, mitigating at Chelmsford Crown Court, said Sage, of Oxley Parker Drive, Colchester, was still not in the best of health but realised he had done wrong.

“He was aware of his obligation the mention any change in circumstances,” he said.

“He is thoroughly ashamed of himself.

“It is right to say he did recover to some extent and following the improvements in his health he should have said so – all he can do is apologise.”

Judge David Turner QC handed him seven months in jail suspended for two years. He must do 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £300 costs.

Sage has paid back £800 but is likely to have to pay back the full amount.

Judge Turner criticised him for failing to sell one of the two properties to pay back his debt.

He said: “Your deception was mean-spirited and shameful.

“This con went on for three-and-a-half years and was motivated not out of need, but out of greed.

“You say you are remorseful but I would believe you more if you had made serious moves to pay some of this money back.”